Book Design for Self-Publishers: Workflow, Interior Design Stage

POSTED ON Mar 31, 2011

Joel Friedlander

Written by Joel Friedlander

Home > Blog > Book Construction Blueprint, Book Design, Self-Publishing > Book Design for Self-Publishers: Workflow, Interior Design Stage

Ed: This post is one of a series on Book Design for Self-Publishers. In the first article we looked at getting the raw materials for your book design project organized. In the second we looked at an overview of the book design workflow. With this article we turn to the specific steps for interior design.

In those articles I described three stages of the book design process. In this article I’m going to look at the first stage in more detail.

Analyzing my workflow this way helps me because it’s easy to fall into repetitive ways of doing things. Once I’ve been doing a particular task for a while, I forget to look for ways to improve the process. Pulling back and looking at the whole process to see how the parts fit together has shown me lots of ways to try new methods to improve my workflow. Doing books faster and more efficiently is quite a bit more enjoyable, too.

I hope you find it useful.

Interior Book Design Workflow: The Design Stage

Tasks in this stage include organizing your files, creating book page elements, experimenting and selecting typefaces to use in the book, selecting your trim size and binding, creating master pages, paragraph and character styles that embody the final design choices.

  • Create an extract from your manuscript to use for sample designs. Since you’ve already looked at all the formats used in the book in your review of your raw materials, you’ll know these pretty well. What you’re looking for is a representative sample that also contains extremes. You don’t want to use a sample to design your books and then find out that a chapter title near the end of the book is so long it won’t work with your design. I always look through every page in the author’s files to see the range of copy for each format. If most chapter titles are five or six words, but there’s one with eleven words, I’m going to make sure I have room for the long title in my design.
  • Set up your files with the trim size equal to the paper size in your document setup. In other words, the page size setting in the software you’re using—whether it’s Word or InDesign or any other program—should be the same as the trim size of your book. So a 6″ x 9″ book will have a page size setting in your software of 6″ x 9″. Don’t set this up on a letter (8.5″ x 11″) default page, it won’t work properly.
  • Pick typefaces for your book. This is an intrinsic part of the design process since books are largely or even exclusively typographic. You’ll be looking first for a typeface to use for the body of the book, and then for a display face that complements it.
  • Use the sample to experiment with different fonts, layouts, and other design elements. This part of the process should be fun, so go ahead and try new things. Clone the file as often as necessary, and really let your “design mind” flow freely, try fonts you’ve never used, see what looks good to you on the page. First set up the type area for the page by establishing margins. You can always begin with .75″ margins and modify from there. Once you have the type area you can add page numbers, running heads and combinations of these elements.
  • Prep Word files for import, including all the tasks identified during your review of the manuscript. See the article Book Page Layout Preparation: Cleaning Up Your Word Files for more detail.
  • Finalize all paragraph and character styles, so that you have only the ones you need, and the hierarchy of styles is clear and they are grouped together for easy retrieval and use. Both InDesign and Word have powerful style features that make your book more consistent and flexible. Getting the styles right is a key to keeping your book consistent, too.
  • Finalize the page margins and page elements, including running heads and page numbers. Once you’ve honed in on the look you want, you’ll be using these elements on your master pages.
  • Set up three basic master pages for text, chapter opening pages and opening pages for front- and back-matter, plus any special pages like Notes or Index sections. Master pages control the framework of your book. Place the appropriate page elements onto the corresponding master pages. Labeling master pages makes moving through the book and identifying different sections much easier, so come up with a naming system that works for you and stick to it. For instance, my chapter opening master pages always carry the identifying letter “C” so I always know exactly where they are in the layout.
  • Decide on your pagination preferences and create section breaks for page numbering options. Here’s where you’ll break the “blurb” pages into un-numbered “a/b” pages, your frontmatter into pages with roman numerals and the body of the book into its own section. Layout programs can handle many variables and numbering options, and it pays to learn to use these features.
  • Decide whether to do your book in one continuous file, or to construct it from separate chapter files. Most book can be handled in one long file. Books with a lot of page formatting and many graphics are easier to deal with in separate files for each chapter. This also prevents you from corrupting the whole book if one chapter file crashes. InDesign has robust tools for handling multi-file documents that make working with a book in separate files pretty simple.
  • Make copies of all your work and copy them to an off-site location. You put a lot of work into your layout files. Make sure you’ve got an offsite copy. It can be as simple as emailing a copy of the file to yourself, or, for larger files, get a free or account and back those files up.

The next phase of the Design Workflow is the Layout Stage. We’ll merge our Word files with the layout template we’ve created in our layout program. It’s pretty exciting seeing the manuscript you’ve worked on all of a sudden take on the look of a real book, so stay tuned for that article.

If you’ve got questions about this Design Workflow, leave them in the comments and I’ll try to help out.

Photo of Krispy Kreme assembly line by jurvetson

Joel Friedlander

Written by
Joel Friedlander

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